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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-11-30
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.forthnet.gr/ape>
INTERNET - ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 30/11/1996 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILGreece remained cut in two for the second day successive day today with tractors blocking major highways after hours-long negotiations Friday night between the government and farmers brought no result.
Farmers have set up roadblocks at several points on the main Athens- Thessaloniki motorway, the main road artery linking the northern and southern parts of the country, as well as at junctions in central and northern Greece.
Their two main demands are cheaper fuel for agricultural use and increased subsidies for cultivated land.
Undersecretary to the Prime Minister's Office George Paschalidis had lengthy talks with farmers' representatives in Larissa, central Greece, on Friday night but the roadblocks remained in place on Saturday and farmers warned that they would continue their protest action until Christmas.
Paschalidis had asked the farmers to suspend their mobilisations until next Friday, so that the government could have time to work out and propose new measures.
Meanwhile, farmers' coordinating committees were scheduled to meet today in Agrinio and tomorrow in Serres and Kavala, to discuss joining the protest action.
Farmers in Kozani today decided to block the Thessaloniki-Ioannina highway on Tuesday morning at the Kozani junction.
The government yesterday tabled in Parliament the state budget for 1997 in the aftermath of a nationwide strike and workers' protests against planned elimination of tax breaks, as well as small salary and pension increases.
A five-day debate on the budget, submitted by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, begins in Parliament on Tuesday, Dec. 17, culminating in a vote on Saturday, Dec. 21.
The relevant Parliamentary committee will hold a three-day discussion on the budget starting next Wednesday.
Presenting the budget, Mr. Papantoniou reiterated that no new taxes would be imposed in 1997, apart from those already announced and contained in the budget.
He said the government's target of 4.5 per cent inflation for 1997 was "ambitious but necessary, because everything depends on the reduction of inflation."
The budget provides for an increase in tax revenue of approximately one trillion drachmas compared to this year's estimated collected revenue.
The additional revenue will come from 19 main sources, including the taxation of bonds, treasury bills and foreign exchange deposits, taxation of large real estate holdings, abolition of tax exemptions and fines for illegal construction.
The 1997 regular budget provides for revenue of 2.271 trillion drachmas from income tax and 127.5 billion drachmas from real estate tax, of which 25 billion drachmas will come from the new provision taxing large real estate holdings.
Indirect taxation will contribute 5.014 trillion drachmas to state coffers, of which 84 billion drachmas will come from road tax, 145.3 billion drachmas from the special consumption tax on private vehicles, 955.5 billion from fuel tax, 76. 2 billion dra chmas from the tax on alcoholic beverages and 465.2 billion drachmas from the tobacco tax.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is expected to contribute a total of 2.520 trillion drachmas, while non-fiscal revenue will reach 843.6 billion drachmas.
The total revenue of the general budget is 9.532 trillion drachmas, an increase of 17.5 per cent over 1996, of which the regular budget will account for 8.715 trillion drachmas, marking an increase of 15.6 per cent.
On the other side, the general budget provides for total expenditures of 11.891 trillion drachmas, an increase of 9.4 per cent, of which 10.225 trillion drachmas are the regular expenditures of ministries etc., an increase of 4.9 per cent, and more than 1 .66 trillion drachmas are for the Public Investment Programme, an increase of 48.8 per cent.
On the basis of these figures, the deficit, or borrowing requirements, will total 2.010 trillion drachmas, marking a drop of 27.1 per cent. The regular budget deficit, without debt servicing, is estimated at 1.510 trillion drachmas, marking a decrease o f 31.7 per cent.
As a percentage of GDP, the deficit will therefore fall to 6.2 per cent, from 9.3 per cent this year.
The 1997 budget allocates 696.85 billion drachmas for defence, an increase of 12.8 per cent, 1.158 trillion drachmas for education, up 18.4 per cent, 809.95 billion drachmas for health and social welfare, an increase of 10.9 per cent, 1.015 trillion dra chmas for social security, up 2.8 per cent, 175 billion drachmas for social policy, 390 billion drachmas for agriculture, an increase of 7 per cent, and 4.176 billion drachmas for other expenditures, an increase of 15.7 per cent.
Following a meeting with ND deputies on the budget, main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert said the government was "following the established course, launching a tax raid which will be paid by those having no hope under the sun."
Mr. Evert said the policy of increasing taxes would lead the economy into recession and dismissed government forecasts of inflation for 1997 as "unrealistic."
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said the tabling of the 1997 budget was surrounded by "an atmosphere of rage and indignation" in Greek society.
Describing the 1997 budget as "insincere," he said its basic figures, like inflation, "are portrayed with the traditional government tricks."
The leader of the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), Dimitris Tsovolas, said the budget was "inhumane", "class discriminating," and led to a "deadlock."
"The 1997 budget will make the rich richer and the poor poorer and will increase instead of solve the financial and social problems," he added.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis is due to leave for Lisbon on Sunday to participate in the summit meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas did not rule out the possibility of Mr. Simitis meeting briefly with US President Bill Clinton on the sidelines of the meeting, although he said there is no official meeting scheduled between the two.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that Athens is examining all aspects of the controversial issue which arose following claims by a Turkish deputy that Turkish security forces and extremist organisations were behind arson attacks in fore sts of several eastern Aegean islands.
Mr. Reppas said no demarche has been made as yet, as all aspects must be carefully examined, adding that Athens is also awaiting the initiatives to be undertaken by judicial or other authorities in Turkey, "if Ankara is thinking of closely following the issue, so that the truth may shine."
The government spokesman said that if Athens wishes, it could ask for intervention by Turkish courts, and has the ability to request an appeal in a political manner to international fora or to undertake legal initiatives.
There will come a day when Ireland will be united, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said during the presentation of his autobiography at the Athens Union of Journalists (ESHEA) yesterday.
Mr. Adams said he would make representations to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for resumption of the peace process in Northern Ireland, expressing regret that British Prime Minister John Major has rejected new proposals submitted by him and Social Dem ocratic Labour Party leader John Hume for a lifting of the deadlock.
"Mr. Major should accept negotiations without preconditions," he added.
Replying to a question by ANA, he said the Australian government's decision not to grant him a visa was isolated and the result of British pressures, adding that if Britain had been able, it would have pressured Greece, too.
According to Mr. Adams, the British administration in N. Ireland was akin to the now defunct apartheid system in South Africa, with the Catholics sustaining an unemployment rate of two-and-a-half times greater than the Protestants.
"The citizens of my country have the right to self-determination and respect for their cultural difference," he added.
Strong winds and heavy rain have caused widespread disruption in Kavala, northern Greece, with basement stores and offices flooded in the town and power cuts in the greater region.
Large parts of the island of Thassos remained without electricity for most of the morning, while trees were uprooted by strong winds in the centre of Kavala town.
Gale force winds are blowing in the northeast Aegean, resulting in an interruption of ferry services from Kavala to Thassos and other islands in the northeast of the country.
The bad weather has also caused damage to crops in many areas of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
Dozens of homes and shops were flooded in the town of Xanthi.
WEATHERWet and windy in Athens, temperatures 13-17C. Same conditions in Thessaloniki where temperatures will range from 10-14C. Rains and local thunderstorms throughout the country forecast for tomorrow.
FOREIGN EXCHANGEClosing rates (buying), Friday November 29
U.S. dlr 239.628, Can. dlr.177.370, Australian dlr. 194.035, Pound sterling 403.228, Irish punt 403.446, Cyprus pd 516.832, French franc 45.938, Swiss franc 184.398 Belgian franc 7.574, German mark 156.066, Finnish mark 52.050, Dutch guilder 139.138, Danish Kr. 40.722, Swedish Kr. 35.775, Norwegian Kr. 37.408, Austrian Sh. 22.179, Italian lira (100) 15.833, Yen (100) 210.582, Spanish Peseta 1.852, Portuguese Escudo 1.546.
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